By Zhong Cheng
After the scientific victory of developing vaccines, stopping the COVID-19 pandemic is now financially and pragmatically feasible. The only obstacle now is a lack of international political will and cooperation.
Vaccine challenges: According to recent World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) studies, to defeat COVID-19 countries need to aim to vaccinate at least 40 percent of their population by the end of this year and 60 percent by the middle of 2022. This will require upfront funding of $50 billion, not just pledges made at conferences. The reports add that funding should prioritize providing facilities for testing, treating and preventing infection as well as increasing the capacity to produce and distribute vaccines. Currently, poorer countries, including large parts of Africa, have a serious lack of access to vaccines, whereas some rich nations have secured an estimated 10 times their actual need.
To address this imbalance in vaccination, we must move beyond vaccine nationalism by increasing vaccine production capacity and distribution. The world should deliver the outcomes of the Global Health Summit at a faster pace, step up cooperation on vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, coordinate COVID-response efforts, and provide stronger support for developing countries. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) effort in delivering the COVAX international vaccine sharing program needs to be supported to close the global immunization gap.
China has honored its promise of making vaccines a global public good. Despite the enormous need for vaccination at home, China has provided 480 million doses of vaccine to nearly 100 countries. Next, China will launch the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation to promote a fair international distribution of vaccines to build a global shield against the virus. It will also do its best to make vaccines more accessible and affordable to other developing countries.
Disparity in recovery: Recent evidence suggests some countries recover well, and others flounder. Economic activity is returning to full steam in countries that were relatively successful in fighting the spread from the outset, but many economies are likely to languish. Zambia and Argentina, for example, have already defaulted on their debt; Latin America’s economy contracted by 7.7 percent in 2020; the Philippines and India registered growth rates of minus 9.5 percent and minus 9.6 percent, respectively; and the World Bank estimates that up to 40 million people in Africa have been forced into extreme poverty.
This disparity in economic recovery is only adding to the already existing disparities in the distribution of wealth between developed and developing nations. This “great divergence” is also occurring within individual economies as well. Regional, racial and gender income disparities are growing more acute. While many businesses have sustained major losses or filed for bankruptcy, other sectors of the economy, like pharmaceuticals, digital platforms, networking technology, have greatly benefited.
Concerted efforts are urgently needed to promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. Education and healthcare also need to be improved to enhance people’s wellbeing. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, seeks to pursue open, green and clean development, and people-centered sustainable growth.
Cross-border and interregional infrastructure construction, industrialization, job creation and agricultural modernization are necessary to facilitate economic development and integration. In the post-pandemic world, China will continue to actively implement the measures announced by President Xi Jinping at the Global Health Summit, to synergize infrastructure development plans, work with participating countries on transport infrastructure, economic corridors, and industrial cooperation zones to improve global connectivity, so that more countries and peoples will be able to share the fruits of development.
China will continue to develop the China-Europe Rail Express, promote port and shipping cooperation and build a silk road in the air. Embracing digital transformation and the development of digital industries, China will accelerate the building of a digital silk road, and make smart connectivity a reality in the near future.
To promote cooperation on green development, China is striving to deliver its commitment of peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. It will host the 15th meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) to promote global biodiversity and protect the global ecosystem. To this end, the country will put forth the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Green Development to inject new impetus into building a green silk road. It will also increase cooperation in green infrastructure, energy and finance by developing more environmentally friendly projects.
It is supporting parties to the Belt and Road Energy Partnership in enhancing cooperation on green energy, and is encouraging businesses involved in Belt and Road cooperation to fulfill their social responsibilities and improve their environmental, social and governance performance.
Global governance: The post-pandemic world also needs to join together to oppose the dangerous practice of stoking division and confrontation. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the Cold War that inflicted severe suffering on the world.
–The Daily Mail-Beijing Review News Exchange Item